Acton Institute Powerblog

As You Sow’s Multi-Faith Scientism

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Free weekly Acton Newsletter

This year is shaping up as an annus horribilus for those opposed to public and private policy climate-change “solutions” that would reverse decades of advancements in wealth creation and the obliteration of poverty. This year’s capper is the upcoming Sustainable Innovation Forum in Paris, France, which will be held December 7-8 under the auspices of the at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21).

As with any jet-airliner pilgrimage of this sort, we can anticipate all sorts of mischievous responses to the perceptions (1) climate change is imminent; (2) human activity is a significant contributor; (3) climate change is inherently catastrophic with no benefits whatsoever for any segment of humanity; and (4) human efforts will be enough to stop it. All of this with no sense of irony as to the carbon footprint thousands of global-warming conference attendees in the City of Light. Among the policy solutions crafted in Paris, rest assured, will be a plethora of new ways to pick the pockets of taxpayers, raid and deplete business coffers and increase government power. Those deep pockets are found almost exclusively in the industrialized West.

Naturally, the faith-based shareholder activist group As You Sow is among the cadre insisting it maintains a monopoly on climate science. AYS this week issued a release that opportunistically pulls quotes the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis and, of course, Pope Francis’ Laudato Siencyclical.

Then there’s this:

Faith-consistent and values-based investors are united in their belief that the current course of climate change, arguably the most urgent challenge facing our planet, can be significantly altered through decisive action on the part of the world’s corporations. As active shareholders we have used our voices to engage companies on environmental and social issues for over four decades, and we have seen the private sector use its enormous power to help solve some of the world’s most intractable problems. When properly channeled, this power can redirect markets towards greater justice and sustainability, and improve the lives of millions.

Fair enough as these things go – shareholders invest as a means to recognize returns on discretionary income. If a company’s evolving practices are determined offensive to the religious beliefs or secular values of any group of investors than the shareholders are well within their respective rights to submit resolutions seeking to remedy the offense or, more drastically, complete divestment.

But when self-admitted activists throw around abstract words such as “justice” and “sustainability,” watch out. It’s pretty obvious these shareholders haven’t familiarized themselves with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments much less Pope Leo XII’s Rerum Novarum or Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno encyclicals.

Instead of seeing the businesses in which they invest as potentially providing returns for themselves and fellow shareholders, creating jobs and contributing to the economic footprints of the communities in which they operate, AYS and its likeminded activists view companies as chess pieces to be used to promote progressive policies while hiding behind the masks of “justice” and “sustainability.”

How does AYS activism promote justice and sustainability exactly? Oh, yeah, I forgot…climate change:

The current climate data are irrefutable: without a significant course correction, climate change is destined to wreak irreversible damage to our planet’s ecosystem – our common home – and will compromise the quality of life of all its inhabitants. The adverse effects of climate change on health, food and water security, human rights, manufacturing and supply chains, and financial markets are already being felt, especially by vulnerable communities, and, if left unaddressed, will only become more difficult and expensive to resolve.

This, to borrow a term coined by the British and used most recently by conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, is so much codswallop, or in the term minted by Russell Kirk, scientism as opposed to actual science. I’ve watched 1950s science-fiction movies with bug-eyed monsters, jet packs and theremin-laden soundtracks with more scientific veracity than the completely unsupported claims listed in the AYS screed above.

Rather than travel down the rabbit hole of refuting AYS’s claims, however, let’s look at the initiatives supported by AYS activists:

We call on companies to:

Issue statements that are specific, clear, and constructive in support of a global agreement to limit warming to below 2 degrees C in advance of COP21, if they have not done so already.

Adopt science-based and time-bound quantitative greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals.

Engage with policy makers to support constructive public policy that will mitigate climate change risks and support a transition to a low-carbon economy, through both direct lobbying and third party organizations.

Commit to zero deforestation and adopt corporate water stewardship policies that respect the human right to water.

In other words, let’s bend the profitability of companies and fellow shareholders to the will of a small group of investors that have placed their faith in scientism above the religious calling to nurture the poor and respect the property of others. More’s the pity.

Enjoy the article?

Click below to view our latest and most popular posts!

Read More

Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

Comments